Brazil: Irregularities Denounced in the Council of Representatives of Emigrants

[All links lead to sites in Portuguese unless otherwise stated.]

The Conselho de Representantes de Brasileiros no Exterior (CRBE) [Council of Representatives of Brazilians Abroad] is an organisation whose aim is to monitor Brazilians who live abroad. They aid the formation of the public policies that benefit these people through the improvement of the consular service and of the communication with the societies within these expatriate communities. This organisation, however, has provoked the indignation of those it represents owing to complaints of irregularities in the elections of their representatives.

The bylaws of this council were approved by the Ministry of External Relations (MRE) at the end of October 2010 by the then minister Celso Amorim [en]. The MRE estimated the size of the Brazilian expatriate community to be around 3 million people, but now, because of Brazil's recent economic boost, the figure has been revised to 2.5 million.

Eleitos para o CRBE (03.12.10). Foto de Liliam Chagas/MRE no Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Elected representatives of the CRBE (03.12.10). Photo by Liliam Chagas/MRE on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Even if data is still unknown, these communities are significant both when referring to their size and to the value of what is sent to their families in Brazil.

Allegations of Fraud

Signs that something was wrong with the way in which the body was elected were already apparent during the elections in the U.S. in early November 2010 as Rui Martins, journalist and elected member of the CRBE, points out:

[Algumas pessoas] desejosas de votar para um candidato ao CRBE, descobriram com surpresa que alguém já votara por elas, utilizando o número de seu passaporte, CPF [Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas], RG [Registro Geral] e outros tipos de identificação que os emigrantes deixam ao se inscrever numa associação, fazer um requerimento, abrir um crédito ou enviar dinheiro para a família.

[Some people] willing to vote for a CRBE candidate discovered to their surprise that someone had already taken their vote using their passport number, social security number, identity card or other type of identification that emigrants have to join an association, open a credit account or send money home to their families.

The latest complaint was made by Antônio José Cândido, a former illegal immigrant in the U.S. who now lives in Goiás, Brazil. Cândido had witnessed the sale of a pack of approximately 1,500 names, including registration information, left with the company Pão de Queijo Brasileiro, in Marlboro, Massachusetts. Cândido's complaint was published by the blog “Beto Moraes”:

Já não aguentava mais ver tanta coisa errada. Mas como era ilegal nos EUA tinha que me calar. […] Eu me lembro que na ocasião do resultado da eleição alguém comentou sobre uma fraude. Eu sabia que era verdade e fui obrigado a ficar calado.

I couldn't bear to see such wrongdoing. But as I was in the U.S. illegally, I had to keep quiet. […] I remember when the election results were announced and someone said it was a fraud. I knew it was true, but I had to stay quiet.
Luoghi Comuni (Common Places) - Small stories of migration: Gislaine D.M., a Brazilian in Italy. Photo by lettera27 on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Luoghi Comuni (Common Places) – Small stories of migration: Gislaine D.M., a Brazilian in Italy. Photo by lettera27 on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It could have been internet voting that allowed for this problem. The current Brazilian electoral legislation only allows expatriates to vote in the consulates for presidential elections, and to allow them and the members of the CRBE to vote in person in the embassies would not only require changing the current legislation but would also create a greater workload for the unprepared consulates.

But the current electoral format for the CRBE election is facing resistance; one issue is the distribution of directors’ vacancies. According to the establishing organisation, the CRBE will be made up of sixteen permanent members, plus their deputies, elected as follows: four for Central and South America; four for North America and the Caribbean; four for Europe; and four for Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Oceania. Thus, for example, a candidate who lives in Syria can be voted for by Brazilians living in Australia, which is completely out of rhythm with the main objective of the CRBE: to identify these communities and formulate policies that meet their needs.

The author of the blog BrasilBest is not very optimistic about the CRBE, and remembers the words of French President Charles de Gaulle in the post title, “Will Brazil one day be a great country?”, establishing a comparison between the works to be completed in preparation for the major sporting events planned in Brazil in 2014 and 2016, saying:

Ao tomar conhecimento dos inúmeros problemas que afetam o recém-criado “Brasileiros no Mundo”, confesso que não fiquei surpreso. Para mim ficou bem claro que a “fórmula brasileira do fracasso” que provavelmente irá destruir o CRBE, é a mesma que já ameaça a realização da Copa 2014 e as Olimpíadas –uma combinação de incompetência, má-fé, corrupção e vaidade.

Upon learning of the many problems that affect the newly created “Brasileiros no Mundo” [Brazilians of the World], I confess that I was not surprised. For me it was clear that the ‘Brazilian formula for failure’, the same that will probably destroy the CRBE, is what is already threatening the achievement of the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics- a combination of incompetence, bad faith, corruption and vanity.

Luciano Sodré, from A voz do Imigrante, wonders: “At the end of the day, what is the CRBE for?” He points out the media portrayal of “a constant battle between the deputies and the permanent members that is both shameful and futile”, and he adds:

O CRBE até agora, no meu ponto de vista, não mostrou claramente para que veio. Se é para ficar realizando reuniões e um “disse-me-disse”, não era necessário criar o tal conselho, pois há anos acontecem os encontros e discussões sobre o futuro dos brasileiros que moram fora do Brasil. (…) Posso estar enganado, mas minha posição é que o verdadeiro CRBE somos nós e nós é que devemos agir para decidir o nosso futuro.

In my view, the CRBE has so far not defined itself clearly enough. If its purpose is to set up meetings and gossipmonger, then it was not necessary to create the board, because for years meetings and discussions have taken place about the future of Brazilians living outside of Brazil. […] I may be wrong, but my position is that the real CRBE is actually us, and we must act to decide our future.

New elections are planned for a further two-year term in the CRBE for late 2012.

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